Several weeks have passed after the retreat, I am back at home in Nairobi. I have just remembered my body, though I am still tired. It’s only now I have gathered the energy to continue writing of my experience in Iceland, but I can’t do the diary thing anymore. It feels off.
Christer Magnusson has lived in Iceland for many years, but attended the Iceland Writers Retreat for the first time this year. This is his story.
Kimmery Martin has shared her experiences about the Iceland Writers Retreat on her blog. She writes that the event had “an invigorating cosmopolitan feel,” thanks to participants who attended from 20 countries. The story has many interesting photographs and practical information on travelling in Iceland, whether for the IWR or not.
You can read the full story on Kimmery’s website.
Victor Yang was one of four recipients of the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award in 2017. This is the story of his experience at the IWR.
Writer and illustrator Megan Herbert has attended the Iceland Writers Retreat three times. In addition to leading a popular free workshop on screenwriting at this year’s event, she was live drawing details from her workshops and other parts of the conference.
Dorothyanne attended the Iceland Writers Retreat for the first time this year.
In a personal blog about the experience, she writes: “To say it was life-changing sounds trite and overblown, but it was so for me. … It feels intimate, safe, friendly, warm, and oh so supportive.”
Dorothyanne discusses her workshops, which were led by an “overwhelmingly spectacular” faculty.
Chris Cleave, award-winning British novelist, was a faculty member at the fourth Iceland Writers Retreat. In his typical self-deprecating yet good-natured humour, he led a workshop on criticism: how to get it, how to seek it out, and what to do with it once you have it.
Words and Photo by Elliott Brandsma.
Starkly beautiful and geographically unique, Iceland is a small yet striking country that captures the imaginations of all who visit. From the island’s quirky, creative inhabitants to its charmingly casual atmosphere, here are eight things that long – and short-term visitors report missing most about Iceland after they’re gone.
- Icelanders. The people of Iceland are resilient, resourceful, laid-back, and full of wonderful stories and interesting perspectives. Some tourists might be put off by the Icelandic stoicism or dark sense of humor at first, but once visitors get to know them (or give them an alcoholic beverage), Icelanders swiftly become some of the most jovial, straightforward, and open people they’ve ever met.
- The Music Scene. Iceland is home to one of the most prolific alternative music scenes in the world. The country plays host to a variety of cutting-edge music festivals all year round, and some notable Icelandic band or singer is likely performing at a bar, restaurant, or coffee shop in the capital Reykjavík on any given evening.
- The Proximity to Nature. A road trip outside of Iceland’s capital city is a fantastic way for travelers to commune with nature and spend time alone in solemn reflection. Iceland’s fresh air, towering mountains, glaciers, aurora borealis, geothermal hot springs, and absorbing scenery provide visitors with a rare chance to reconnect with the natural world, alleviate stress, and clear their minds of mental clutter.
- The Close-knit Environment. Iceland is a small, sparsely-populated island, which means everyone knows everyone, and family ties between Icelanders are quite strong. Most native Icelanders are related to each other by at least the seventh generation, lending to the nation’s distinct “small-town” feel. The informal nature of the Icelandic populace also makes it easy to establish personal and professional connections, so for visitors who stay long enough, Iceland quickly feels like a second home.
- The Bars, Restaurants and Coffee Shops. The country’s budding culinary scene and iconic coffee shop culture are favorites among tourists to Iceland, mostly because Reykjavík boasts a venue or café for every palette and preference. Fish and lamb dishes remain a huge hit among Icelanders and visitors alike, while a variety of vegan dining options are slowly but steadily catching on in the Nordic country. The capital city is home to an abundance of cozy coffee shops and bustling bars, too, where visitors can upload vacation photos, Skype with family, or chat with new friends over a brew.
- The Literary Culture. Iceland has been a book-loving nation for centuries. Whether it’s the Icelandic sagas or the Nobel Prize-winning novels of Halldór Laxness, Icelanders have long venerated the written word and made literacy a cultural value. Reykjavík boasts a well-run network of libraries and bookstores and every year around Christmastime, Icelanders celebrate the jólabókaflóð, or Christmas Book Flood, when Icelandic publishers collectively release hundreds of new book titles on the market.
- Þetta reddast. In Icelandic, the saying “Þetta reddast” means “everything will work out.” This phrase has come to exemplify an endearing quality about Icelanders: their steadfast belief that no matter how bleak or dire a situation appears, everything will come together in the end. Many long-term visitors in Iceland have come to appreciate this optimistic outlook, because it helps them keep stressful situations in perspective and not take life too seriously.
- The “Everything is Possible” Attitude. Iceland’s intimate size and inventive people make every dream and creative endeavor seem possible. For example, Iceland boasts the most published authors per capita in the world; many Icelanders have formed bands or play an instrument; visual artists abound in the country; and Iceland is rapidly becoming a home for innovative green businesses and technologies. An artistic and entrepreneurial paradise, the country celebrates creativity and thrives on turning lofty ideas into reality.
Elliott Brandsma lived and went to school in Iceland for three years before relocating to Miami, Florida, in 2016. He misses these and many other things about Iceland. What will you miss most about your time in Iceland? Sign up for the Iceland Writers Retreat and discover the wonders of Iceland for yourself.
For the third year in a row, we have partnered with Iceland Travel to run a competition to win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat. This year’s theme was “Iceland — Regard The Moon” and we received over 350 submissions from the around the world.
The winner of the competition is Heidi Ball from the UK, with her story “White Light”. Continue reading
“I write because I love writing, and I am glad to have made it to the Iceland Writers Retreat…I am looking forward to interacting with writers all over the world,” says Peter Ngila, one of the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipients who was recently featured, together with Nadifa Mohamed – one of the Iceland Writers Retreat 2017 faculty members – on the James Murua blog. James, who is one of the Africa’s most prominent literary bloggers, provides news and reviews about African writers and the African literature scene. Read more about their feature here!